Appeal vowed in case of Ferndale pot clinic

Pontiac — Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said Thursday that an Oakland circuit judge’s dismissal of cases involving a Ferndale medical marijuana dispensary would be appealed and would not affect pending or future prosecutions.

On Wednesday, Judge Daniel O’Brien dismissed charges against Ryan Richmond, the operator of the now-closed Clinical Relief, and seven employees or patrons arrested or ticketed in 2010 on suspicion of violating state marijuana laws.

Cooper said her office would “respectfully appeal Judge O’Brien’s ruling to the Michigan Court of Appeals, which is our right.”

Richmond’s defense attorney, Neil Rockind, and other attorneys argued in joint legal filings that the 2008 medical marijuana law was ambiguous and that their clients believed they were operating within the law.

“This is a very important ruling,” Rockind said. “I’m proud to have been a part of it … this one was rather unique.

“My client relied on various interpretations of the law and also assurances from the city of Ferndale that what they were doing was OK.”

O’Brien’s ruling will not allow Clinical Relief to reopen, Rockind said, because of a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling in August 2011 that effectively banned marijuana dispensaries.

Cooper disputed the defense’s claims that the law was murky.

“The argument is nonsense,” she said. “The only people I hear arguing that the law is unclear are the people who are clearly operating outside of it and defense attorneys who are making beaucoup bucks defending them.”

Cooper said people with certain health problems who follow a doctor’s advice, obtain a medical marijuana card from the state and abide by all conditions are not being prosecuted.

“But the dispensaries are another matter and have never been legal,” she said. “Everybody knows that pharmacists can’t dispense Schedule One substances like marijuana. So why would anyone think they can do what a licensed pharmacist cannot legally do?”

Assistant prosecutor Beth Hand opposed the dismissal request. In an earlier filing to O’Brien, she said the “ignorance of the law” defense should not excuse the defendants’ actions.

Michigan has more than 30,000 residents holding cards that certify physicians have prescribed their use of marijuana for some ailment. After the Court of Appeals ruling, several hundred dispensaries closed and only license-holding caregivers can dispense marijuana to patients.

Caregivers are permitted to provide marijuana to no more than five patients and cannot have more than 12 plants for a patient at any time.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Narcotics Enforcement Team conducted undercover investigations at Clinical Relief, which sold more than a dozen grades of marijuana costing up to $700 an ounce, and reportedly had more than 1,000 customers.

via The Detroit News

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